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Lumberjacks hope to carry hot start into home opener

By Scott Brandenburg, 10/09/18, 8:15AM EDT


Muskegon has plenty of momentum it hopes to build on when it hosts Chicago Saturday

MUSKEGON - The Muskegon Lumberjacks have plenty to be excited about in the early going of the 2018-2019 season.

The Lumberjacks are 4-0 and off to their best start in franchise history. Their eight points is tops in the United States Hockey League, one point better than Eastern Conference foes Team USA and Cedar Rapids, each of whom have still not lost in regulation.

"Obviously we're happy with the four wins," said Muskegon first-year coach Mike Hamilton, "but we're looking at the big picture that we have a lot more work to do."

The other reason for excitement is that hard work will come at home for the first time this season.

Muskegon will play host to the Chicago Steel (1-2-1) Saturday at 7:15 p.m. in the home opener.

The 'Jacks will then host familiar foe Youngstown (0-3-0-1), whom they just swept this past weekend, on Sunday. Puck drop is 3:15 p.m.

Muskegon has allowed just seven goals this season, which is third in the league behind Cedar Rapids and the Tri-City Storm (six apiece).

Hamilton is looking for more of the same this weekend.

"We're going to continue with what has brought us success to this point, which is winning as a team," Hamilton said. "They've all been team wins. Every night someone different is putting the puck in the net, and the defense and goaltending have been strong.

"I think we've won 56 percent of our face-offs, our penalty kill has been phenomenal, and we've blocked a lot of shots. That's all attributed to hard work and doing whatever it takes to win."

Muskegon goalie Brandon Bussi has spearheaded the defense, as he's 4-0 with one shut out and one shootout win.

Egor Afanasyev leads the Lumberjacks with four goals and five points. Jagger Joshua and Bobby Lynch each have four points.

Chicago is led by Robert Mastrosimone and Cole Quisenberry, both of whom have four points. Mastrosimone has two goals while Quisenberry has three assists.

The Steel have scored just one less goal than the Lumberjacks (15-14), but have struggled to slow down their opponents to the tune of 21 goals allowed, tied for most in the USHL.